Kootenai County Fire and Rescue plans to inspect about 1,500 businesses and commercial buildings this year - all of such sites in the district - as part of a new program in the name of fire protection.
KCFR serves Post Falls, Dalton Gardens, Huetter, Fernan Village and the Wolf Lodge area.
"We don't experience a high fire occurrence in commercial properties and we want to keep it that way," a KCFR press release states.
In the past, inspections have been the primary responsibility of KCFR's fire marshal.
During the building boom, the fire marshal was only able to keep up with new projects so inspections of existing buildings became a secondary priority.
However, over the past few years, KCFR primarily focused on annual inspections for high-hazard occupancies in the district.
And, in 2013, KCFR has identified commercial building inspections as a top priority.
"We believe the importance of inspections for the safety of employees as well as customers that are in businesses is so great that we have made inspections part of the firefighting crews' assignments," the press release states. "Leveraging existing resources will enable us to accomplish this task without adding staff."
GIS mapping is being used to make assignments in groups so the crews can perform the inspections in a methodical, time-efficient manner, KCFR officials say.
"Crews are taking the advantage of iPads and the Internet to increase efficiency in updating information and documenting the activity," the press release states.
The inspections allow for firefighters to discuss with business owners possible hazards. They also allow fire crews to be associated with floor plans and provide for a database of emergency information.
The most common problems found have been burned out exit lights/emergency lighting, the permanent use of extension cords for electrical power and fire extinguishers out of service.
"We understand that these inspections cause some disruption for the business and we will do all we can to minimize that inconvenience," the press release states. "We hope the business community sees the program as a way to increase their relationship with the fire district and as partners, and improve the overall safety in our community."
Coeur d'Alene Fire started a similar aggressive fire inspection program about five years ago. Northern Lakes, which covers Hayden, Hayden Lake and Rathdrum, is in the planning stages of starting such a venture.